Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Comic Review -- Batman and Robin #9: Robin Hears a Hoo / Peter J. Tomasi, Lee Garbett, Andy Clarke, Ray McCarthy and Keith Champagne

Okay, this is a pretty awesome cover.  I don't know much about Damian Wayne's Robin--and so far don't like much of what I've learned about him--but something about this shot really makes me really root for him.  I'm not sure if it's the double under-hand grip on the swords, the fact that a boy of single-digit age is dauntlessly facing a trained adult assassin in sword combat, or the colors, composition and line work, but the effect is for me to just say that this cover rocks.  My biggest issue with it is that there's really no swordfight between Damian and the Talon in the pages of the comic.  Otherwise, great job there!

Robin receives Alfred's distress call and at first tries to join them at the Batcave.  Alfred reroutes him to a nearby target on the Court's hit list, General Benjamin Burrows, who Damian reaches just as one of the Talons takes out several of the general's men while they're on a training exercise.  They start to escape, but Burrows is injured, and Robin has to drag him to his command post.  When they reach his men, Robin tells them to set up a perimeter and commands them, in the style of a general, to repel the Talon with gunfire until they run out of ammo and the Talon manages to take them out.

Standing over the general, the Talon begins talking about how Burrows is actually the descendant of another man whose family he was supposed to have wiped out over 200 years ago--his hit on Burrows is a matter of personal fulfillment of his duty as the Court's assassin.  Before he can finish his task, Robin shoots him through the head with a grappling line, and strings him up on a tree branch, admitting that he and Talon have more in common than he'd care to admit.  Severing the hanging Talon's head with a sword, he escorts the limping general to safety, commenting that whatever it was, the assassin had actually died long ago.

This was an interesting introduction to Damian Wayne as a character for me.  I'd only seen snippets of him in previous comics, and I really hated what I'd seen.  He was a pint-sized, know-it-all, Mary-Sue character in a Robin costume who made for an unworthy successor to Tim Drake (I'll admit I'm biased here--Tim was my Robin, when I started reading Batman comics as a teen).  Here, he's presented in a less over-the-top manner, as a kid who's perhaps aware that he's grown up sooner than he should have, and acts more adult and matter-of-fact than I've seen him do in the brief glimpses I'd seen previously.

One of the most telling moments in the comic, for me, was how he started for the Batcave--showcasing both his loyalty to his father and his youthful impulsiveness--yet how he calmly and immediately accepts Alfred's orders, realizing that there's a larger picture at play as well as the fact that Alfred and Batman likely have things well in hand at the Cave.  It's scenes like this that make me like and respect a character more than fighting ability, or whatever knowledge the writers want to insert to show that he's smarter than the adult soldiers with whom he's arguing.  Good job on the characterization there, Peter Tomasi!

Artistically, I enjoyed Garbett's line work as well as Clarke's illustration of the Talon's monologuing--he actually did a pretty good rendition of George Washington.  Garbett must have enjoyed drawing so many decapitations and beheadings, as there were plenty to go around this issue.  It was therefore a fitting end to the Talon's "life" in this comic, when Robin took a sword to him.  He's also good at showing Robin's diminutive size against a larger foe and the adults around him, making his deeds and poise all the more impressive.  Kudos!

Overall, this was an action-packed and fairly intense issue, where a boy's wits are pitted against the assassin's fervor as he tries to protect his target from the Talon's wrath.  The artwork is good, the writing flows nicely and has some good character moments, and the plot is well executed.  Definitely worth a read for Night of the Owls and Batman fans, and not a bad stand-alone.  Highly recommended.

Oh, and by the by... I loved the title for this story!

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